Candlemas: finding light in the dark

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By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — St. Patrick Parish celebrated Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation, with candlelight Feb. 2. Sofia Livorsi, parish youth minister, said she had not heard of Candlemas until about six years ago. “I have really grown to love it.”

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Participants hold candles during the feast of Candlemas at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City.

The Gospel reading for the day focused on Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple 40 days after his birth. In the reading, the wise and holy man Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus would be a light to the nations. “This is why the feast came to be associated with candles,” Livorsi said. “In the 7th century, Pope Sergius declared that Christians should celebrate the Feast of the Presentation with a procession of lighted candles, and that they should decorate the sanctuary with as many candles as they could.”

“I also love the symbolism of the candles, representing light in the dark, the difficult part of the winter. It’s a bright spot in early February when we’re all getting a little tired of winter. It’s a time when we need a good feast day,” she said. “Ever since I learned about Candlemas, which was about six years ago, my husband and I have been celebrating Candlemas at home with our kids. We have a special meal, we read the story of the Presentation of Christ and the kids set up a scene with castle blocks and little figures to represent the Holy Family going into the Temple. At bedtime we bring all the candles from the house into the living room and light them, turn out all the other lights, and say prayers.”

Last year, Livorsi wanted to get the youths at St. Patrick Parish involved in Candlemas. She held a small event for them and this year extended the celebration to the entire parish. “I like the symbolism of the youths being the leaders of this service, which celebrates light and hope, because they are the future of the Church,” Livorsi said.

Wind prevented the candles from being lit for the outdoor procession. “We met outside at a small park across the street from the church and walked to the church with our candles (unlit). Once inside, participates lit their candles and walked into the church. Some people kept their candles lit for the entire service, which was beautiful to see,” she said. As people left the church, youths were available to relight candles for participants walking back to their cars.

Youths from the parish had various roles, such as carrying a ceremonial candle to lead the procession, reading Scripture, leading responsorial prayers and music and helping light candles.

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The 60 or so participants were encouraged to take their candles home, which the pastor, Father Joseph Sia, blessed. “Remember, whenever you light that candle now at home, that you used it on this night, with this community. We need each other, to light the way to Jesus,” Livorsi said.


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